I wish I could be with anyone who has taken an interest in otr or has loved it for awhile, and has yet to be inducted into the Gildersleeve series.
It's like hearing the Beatles for the first time in music. You're entering an exquisite world that's genuine, unique, wonderful, and with nothing else like it anywhere.
Harold Peary, the Great Gildersleeve's originator,
was the son of a Portuguese immigrant; christened Jose Pereira de Faria. He became a vaudeville singer who earned his chops singing romantic ballads on early radio in the twenties. In the nineteen thirties, his ability to not only sing, but voice and portray many different characters and their nationalities won him a spot on the Fibber McGee and Molly show in the nineteen thirties. One of the shows writers, Don Quinn, gave him his name, "Gildersleeve", the most pompous one he could think of.
Gildy went at it tooth and tong with Fibber McGee. He always could rise to Jim Jordan's character's fits of hijinks and hysterics. The two had a memorable water fight at one point.
Peary took Guildersleeve to his own show in late 1941 and never looked back.
He went from McGee's Wistful Vista to his new home of Summerfield to take care of his niece Marjorie, and his nephew Leroy
(played to smart-mouthed but lovable perfection by Walter Tetley throughout the series).
He had the guidance, and often fractious friendship of the "old goat", Judge Horace Hooker, played wonderfully by Earle Ross. He also always visited Peavey's store for a visit with "Peavey", Dick Legrand. Peavey's often spouted "Well now, I wouldn't say that.", became an expression used around the country.
Every character on Guildersleeve was elemental and important. G's housemaid Bertie Lee Coggins played by Lillian Randolph did a fine job of balancing Guildy and bringing him down to earth when he needed it.
There were many other special characters in the show like Mr. Bullard the next door neighbor, played by Gale Gordon, Shirley Mitchell as Guildy's sometime girlfriend Leela, Floyd the barber, played by Arthur Q. Bryan, Chief Gates played by Ken Christy, and many others.
The beauty of all of these people was to flesh out scenes that used otr possibly to the zenith of it's advantage. You never need a t.v
. tube to imagine Guildy puffing on a cheap cigar at Peavey's, and you never need to see the horrendous mess in Leroy's room, or view Marjories saddle shoes and new dress to see how pretty she is; you can feel it and tell it from the import the characters gave their lines and the emotion and acting they put into their efforts.
Summerfield is as real a place as Treasure Island or King Arthur's court. A wonderful town with ups and downs and problems like anywhere, but also full of pure Rockwell Americana. Guildy's infamous Jolly Boys Club he forms with Peavy, Judge Hooker, Floyd the barber, and Chief Gates, is hilarious and always tenderly interesting. When Guildy goes on a date, to his office, to Floyd's barbershop, etc., you always feel you're right there with him.
Sadly, Peary bowed out of the show due to contract differences in June of 1950. When the show returned that September, it did so with the actor, Willard Waterman who continued Peary's character with a spot on the nose imitation that was scary it was so good. Minus the bubbly Guildy laugh, Waterman successfully carried on the Guildy character with much of the rest of the cast, for an additional four plus years.
In all, Guildy made it nearly fourteen years; longer than most of the shows of otr, and t.v
. too for that matter.
If you haven't visited Summerfield you're in for such a treat! The sense of place that's created here is brilliant and amazing. When you start going around to other second rate otr shows like Father Knows Best, The Bickersons, etc., you'll see that "The Great Guildersleeve's" many fleshed out characters and the acting given them, was and is one of a kind.
Don't miss out on listening to this great otr series so generously and nearly completely collected here!